"I was chased around the campus by the guards. Finally, one female student stopped me and the guards caught on and pushed me against the wall," alleged Nivedya, one of the seven students of Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university who was detained by the Delhi police on Wednesday, 25 January.
The vice president of the Students Federation of India (SFI) and an MA Convergent Journalism student of JMI's AJK Mass Communication and Research Centre (MCRC), Nivedya was detained after the SFI planned to screen the first part of the controversial BBC documentary titled 'India: The Modi Question,' which recounts the events of the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
Nine other students – Dibya Jyoti Tripathi, vice-president of National Students' Union of India (NSUI), Nivedya, vice-president of Students' Federation of India (SFI), Abhiram and Tejas, students of Jamia and SFI Unit members, Azeez, NS Abdul Hammed, Adham Pr, Lubaib Basher and Anshul Singh – were also detained on Wednesday from outside the JMI campus. While Nivedya was released the same day, the others were released on Thursday.
'Tricked Into Detention'
On Tuesday, the SFI members released a poster announcing the screening of the documentary at 6:00 pm the next day at the AJK Mass Communication and Research Centre (MCRC) Lawn, gate no 8.
On Wednesday morning, the JMI students came to a campus fortified by the Delhi police. By noon, at least five SFI members had been detained and all events organised on the campus, other than examinations, were cancelled.
Speaking to The Quint, Nivedya claimed, "I was physically and verbally abused by the proctorial office. My phone was snatched around 1.15 pm and it has been more than 24 hours since I don't have my phone with me, which is straight up violation of my human rights."
She further claimed that her hair was pulled.
"I was holding on to my phone but after five minutes of struggle, they managed to take my phone from me. When I asked the concerned official for the phone, I was asked to go to the proctor's office. As soon as I stepped out of the campus, I was detained by Delhi police and we were taken to Fatehpur Beri police station, I was basically tricked into detention," she alleged.
Dibya Jyoti Tripathi, 20, a BA political science second-year student and vice-president of National Students Union of India (NSUI) of Jamia Unit, the student wing of the Indian National Congress, claimed he was in campus to visit the Sanskrit department of JMI to speak on democracy and republic and also for the documentary screening.
"The police refused to give a reason for our detention. Around 6.30 pm on Wednesday, we were told that we were detained for wanting to screen the documentary," he claimed.
"We were taken to Fatehpur Beri police station. I was in the lock-up for 23 hours, in a single room with other detained students from Jamia. We were given a mattress each to sleep and dal roti for food. They released me at 11.45 am on 26 January. Advocate Saimon Farooqui was there as our lawyer but he was not allowed to get inside," Dibya added.
Claiming that he too was "tricked" into detention, Dibya said: "I was detained from gate no 8 of Jamia by a force of approximately 25-27 police personnel. I screamed, sloganeered and resisted but they didn't let me go and shoved me inside a police bus."
"We were made to change six vehicles in the route to Fatehpuri Beri police station. I believe that it was pre-planned because you cannot align six vehicles in different locations in a span of 10-20 mins. We believe and assert the fact that Jamia administration issued the order," he further claimed.
'For How Long Will You Suppress the Truth?'
Dibya claimed that the Deputy Proctor of JMI, Azam, was rigorously calling them since the morning of Wednesday, which they assumed was for imposing a campus ban on everyone who had planned the screening of the documentary.
Speaking about the motive behind the screening, Dibya said: "For how long will you suppress the truth? Jamia has its own school of thought and activism. We believe that whatever is happening on ground is essential to be told to each and every student of Jamia."
Adding that the students of JMI are used to having police on the campus, and they assumed that security was upped ahead of Republic Day, Dibya said that the organisers of the screening expected a campus ban, not a detention.
“In a democratic institution and a democratic country, we have the right to see movies and watch documentaries. The government does not have the right to block any movie arbitrarily. This (BBC documentary) was being screened everywhere, every student wanted to see it as it was getting massive support, so we also wanted to screen it inside our campus," Nivedya said.
What the Police and the Authorities Have Said
In a statement, the university said that the organisers of the screening had not taken due permission required for the event.
"The university administration informed us that some students were allegedly creating a ruckus on the streets and therefore a total of 13 students were detained around 4 pm to ensure peace in the area," claimed DCP (south-east).
In a statement release by Jamia, the varsity said, "The university administration had earlier issued a memorandum/circular and once again reiterates that no meeting/gathering of students or screening of any film shall be allowed in the campus without the permission of the competent authority, failing which strict disciplinary action shall be taken against the organisers."
"The university is taking all possible measures to prevent people/organisations having vested interest to destroy the peaceful academic atmosphere of the university," the statement added.